Looking for gardening ideas that bring in easy care, low water-demanding plants and grasses for the garden?
And not to get buggy with it, but think insects, too, as they figure into the well-being of our gardens and the ecosystem. More on this below.
The demonstration Xeriscape Park at the corner of North Rose Street and East Isaacs Avenue packs a low-water demand green-thumb punch in a little, triangular space.
Taken from the Greek, xeros means dry, thus xeriscape — say zirra-scape — means landscaping for water conservation.
A map legend on site shows what’s planted where — flowers, shrubs, trees and ground cover that require little or no additional watering and a small lawn of two drought-tolerant grasses. Walkways wend around the space so visitors can view the plants, take in the “From a Hole in the Earth” sculpture by Bill Piper and enjoy sitting a spell on benches.
More than a dozen volunteers with Walla Walla 2020, which maintains the park, swept in for spring cleaning the morning of Thursday, April 22.
“We had a productive work party with planting, trimming and tidying up this small, city-owned urban park,” said WW2020 Trees, Landscaping and Natural Resources Committee chairman Chris Howard.
“What we planted this week was snow buckwheat, which is native, gaillardia, yarrow and salvia. The city provides the money for the plants, and they purchase from Wenzel’s ... The emphasis for plants was drought-tolerant, attractive and low maintenance,” Howard said.
“The group is working to plant more natives to support native pollinators. We plant perennials but sometimes after a couple of years we plant replacements for the ones that didn’t reproduce. The city provides and maintains the irrigation system,” he said.
“We put a huge dent in it but are not done,” one volunteer added. “(We) would love more recruits to help.”
The site is the result of a collaboration with the city and civic group WW2020 members who envision, plan for and undertake projects to enhance the community now and looking ahead. WW2020 was founded in 1988.
WW2020 offers a brochure on xeriscaping techniques, tips and a map showing the placement and names of the vegetation on the Xeriscape Park planting plan, available at ww2020.net.
Kathryn Howard with Blue Mountain Audubon Society expanded in the group’s newsletter on the need for native plants that provide habitat for bees and other insects.
“Creating wildlife habitat in the urban setting for our native insects is becoming increasingly important in efforts to slow the widespread decrease in insect abundance and diversity that results from various anthropogenic (human impact on the environment) factors, including habitat destruction,” she said.
The current state, country and global-level movements that emphasize more sustainable, native, biodiverse, and low-water garden and park landscaping requires an understanding of how to select and maintain native plants, avoidance of pesticides and shifts in our ideals of what gardens should look like, with a return to the more natural appearance.”
Research is being done right here by Whitman College biology professor Heidi Dobson, a teacher there since 1992, backed by a master’s in entomology and doctorate in botany. She’s studying bee-flower interactions, with a special focus on wild solitary bees and the plants on which they collect and consume pollen. Her research is global, including in Sweden with an especial interest in native plant gardens and creating wildlife habitat for local insects.
Dobson will give a talk during the May BMAS meeting. See wp.me/p84DsT-u8 for more details.